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Dealing With Anger–Part II

Two days ago I posted 12 suggestions about responding to anger and insults in writing. I included an example of a hostile message and asked readers to think about how they would respond to it. Here is my response:

I am very sorry about the mistake. It makes me sick as well. I have no explanation except that I proofread it the day I left early with the flu.

I have left a message with the printer to find out what our options are, and I will let you know as soon as I hear from him.

I recommended this response because it apologizes, empathizes, responds to the facts in the previous message, and focuses on action. Beyond that, it’s short.

My thanks go to Dennis Dennis, a consulting organizational psychologist, who commented on the response above when he read it in my monthly newsletter. Based on his training and experience using a tool called the Conflict Dynamics Profile, Dennis noted that the response includes these effective behaviors:

  • Reaching out
  • Avoiding self-criticism (beyond what is realistic)
  • Attempting creative solutions
  • Expressing emotions

Dennis pointed me to the Eckerd College website on the Conflict Dynamics Profile, where I took a test to learn about my hot buttons (things that upset me) and “cooling strategies” for dealing with them. I learned that my main hot button is abrasiveness.  One suggested cooling strategy is to refuse to be a victim, and to instead respond this way when faced with abrasive criticism: “I may well be wrong. Let’s examine the facts.”

I liked what I read about the Conflict Dynamics Profile, which was developed by the Leadership Development Institute. If you are interested in learning about the tool and using it with your group, visit the site.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.